Last Train Loads of Freight Roll into Kalispell

While Northwest Drywall prepares to move into rail park, economic authority announces new development at former CHS property

By Justin Franz
Jon Gneiting unloads a rail car at Northwest Drywall near downtown Kalispell on Dec. 10, 2019. The rail car was one of the last to bring freight into downtown Kalispell before the drywall warehouse moves to the Glacier Rail Park in Evergreen. Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon.

One hundred twenty-eight years ago, the first train to arrive in downtown Kalispell was welcomed with a parade and banquet featuring all the trimmings. This week, the last trains to pull freight into town arrived with considerably less fanfare.

On Monday, Dec. 16, Northwest Drywall and Roofing Supply was unloading what it expected to be one of the last loads of freight at its warehouse on Eighth Avenue WN. The building supply company was expecting to move into its new warehouse at the Glacier Rail Park in Evergreen this week and start accepting rail cars of drywall and other materials there soon after.

While there are still are few empty freight cars being stored on the rails near downtown Kalispell, the arrival of the last load to Northwest Drywall meant the number of trains rumbling over Main Street on a regular basis will be greatly reduced in the coming months until the rails are ripped up and replaced with a trail.

In 2018, Flathead County Economic Development Authority completed the construction Glacier Rail Park, a rail-served industrial area off Whitefish Stage Road in Evergreen, that has become the new home for two Kalispell businesses long-reliant on rail service: Northwest Drywall and CHS Kalispell. Earlier this fall, CHS completed its move into the rail park and now trainloads of grain are loaded there. Last week, Northern Plastics Inc. announced it was moving into the rail park as well, filling the last piece of available real estate in the 40-acre industrial park.

With the construction of the rail park and removal of the rails through downtown, Kalispell will start building a long-awaited trail connecting Evergreen and Woodland Park with Meridian Road. City officials have said the trail could be “transformative” for the downtown area kicking off a number of new developments in a long-underutilized section of town.

This week, Montana West Economic Development and the Flathead County Economic Development Authority announced that Bridgewater, a Kalispell based development company, would be turning the old CHS Country Store gas station into a new commercial development called Downtown Commons. The development will be home to Berube Physical Therapy, Alpine Lighting and a third commercial tenant. Developers hope to eventually add a co-working space and executive offices.